Premier Old-Time Fiddler Bruce Molsky & Monster Multi-Instrumentalist Sweden’s Ale Möller Perform March 23, Harrisburg, PA

Bruce Molsky stands today as the premier old-time fiddler in the world. He’ll join forces with Sweden’s Ale Möller, a multi-instrumentalist who’s a giant on the world music scene for a concert that compares American with Swedish folk traditions. See these two virtuosic musicians perform on Friday, March 23rd at 7:30 pm at the Fort Hunter Barn in Harrisburg, PA. More information on this Susquehanna Folk Music Society sponsored concert can be found at www.sfmsfolk.org

Folkmama catches up with Bruce Molsky by phone in the airport as he waits for his flight to Scotland’s Celtic Connections. Molsky talks about his past collaborations, his memories on first meeting Ale Möller and a bit about what it’s like to play together.

Folk Mama: I’ve followed your career for a long time and you’ve performed for us a number of times and one of the things that I think about you is that you’re incredibly versatile as a musician. You know in terms of who you play with, all the different instruments you’ve mastered and the different styles that you play. You’ve played for Susquehanna Folk as a solo musician and then you performed with Darol Anger and a few years ago for a magical concert with Ale Möller, and soon you’ll appear with Ale again. I’d like to hear a little more about the collaborations that you’ve done.

Molsky: I think the first time I was asked to collaborate outside the genre that I’m most associated with, (old-time music) was with Mick Maloney–you know the Irish- American expert. Maloney used to run these big shows every year in Philadelphia and Washington for St Patrick’s Day. He’d always have these amazing Irish American musicians and he always wanted to have me too! You know he knows so much about the music and there is such a strong link between Irish music and Scottish music and so much of the American stuff. At this experience is what really put the idea of doing collaborations in my head.

The first time I ever toured professionally as a collaboration was 1994. That was with a tour that really changed my life. It was with a group called Fiddles on Fire and it was in England and Scotland. That was my first introduction to all these other kind of fiddle styles because there were musicians from Sweden and South India, England, Scotland, Ireland and France. That was when I first met Alasdair Fraser, who was on the tour with Kevin Burke, Chris Wood and Ellika Frisell. And it was Alasdair who first started twisting my arm about becoming a professional musician because I was the only one on the tour that had a day job. And one thing led to another.

I played with fiddler Ellika Frisell and her Sudanese kora playing partner Solo Cisshako. The two of them have this really great cross cultural think going on. A few years later we got to take this trio to the Nordic Roots Festival in Minneapolis, a great festival run by Rob Simmons.  I’ve also done a lot of work with the Norwegian hardanger fiddler named Anndjørg Lien who is quite an innovative fiddler but was originally a traditional player. We did a CD together called “Waltz With Me”. And another musician who I have gotten a chance to do some touring with is Anon Egeland who is also a Norwegian hardanger fiddler player.

So that’s been some of my Norwegian connections. And then of course there is Mosaic and Fiddlers Four and here lately this collaboration with Ale Möller and Ale Bain. We’re going to do some touring together in Britain in the fall and the plan is to produce a live CD at the end of it. So, we’re feeling pretty serious.

Folkmama: I know that you do a lot of touring in the Scandinavian countries. Someone made an interesting comment to me about this one time. He said that in these countries they think of you as a “fiddling god”. I was curious why you think get such a strong response there.

Molsky: When I decided to make music my thing I promised myself that I would stay true to the music before anything else. When I close my eyes and play I definitely go somewhere. I want my audience to go there with me. As far as the audeinces over there are concerned—I do a lot of things technically and do a lot of things that are my own invention and it’s all about language for me. So if they are connecting with what I am doing they are relating to the message that transcends the music. There is nothing that makes me happier when I play a piece of music is to have someone enjoy it. You know culturally and personally I like so many of the people that I’ve met in the Scandinavian countries and I feel really comfortable there.

Folkmama: You’ve played for us before in several different configurations, but I think that Ale Möller is someone who is a little less known to us. I wonder if there are some things that you can tell us about him as a musician, and even as a person.

Molsky:  I should start by telling you that the very first time that I met Ale we were in a hotel room and we decided to play to a tune together and he said, “Play me American tune.” So I started showing him something and before the second time through the tune he had not only learned the melody but he had nailed the phrasing, the accent and the language of it. And it just blew me away because he has that kind of focus.

Ale is an interesting character because he’s lived in Sweden all his life, but one of his parents is Norwegian and the other one is Danish, so he grew up in all those musical traditions and he’s got those three Scandinavian countries in him. Plus he was trained in a conservatory as a jazz musician. One of the things that really powers him is that he is an educator. He really loves knowledge. Whenever I present him with a tune of any kind he absolutely has to take it apart and put it back together again. And he looks at all possibilities and he’s fearless about challenging the constraints that a lot of people put on style. Ale is really a rhythmic experimenter. He’s very careful when he steps outside of the line of traditionallity. He has some really great ideas about moving energy through a piece of music and building intensity.

Ale has deep respect for all these different traditions and yet he plays his own music his own way. He’s got a big band—the Ale Moller Big Band—which includes musicians from all over—there’s a Quebecoise guy in there, singers from Greece and Senegal—he’s got all these different people and it all kind of works. Another thing about Ale is that he’s done a lot of work in the theater and he has a really strong sense of presentation. He’s a monster—he gets it.

Folkmama: So when you collaborate with him, someone walking into your concert—what are the kinds of experiences that they are going to have?

Molsky: It’s like we are just two mature musicians up on stage just kinda having a conversation and wanting people to be part of that. We throw a lot of musical phrases and ideas back and forth to each other on stage and we have developed a repertoire together that we really like playing. And it’s joyful and it’s intimate. It’s not a formal kind of concert, it’s a party!

—Jess Hayden, March 2011

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